Before we go into details on how to ship hazardous materials, one needs to understand that different types of cargo require different measures for transportation. For instance, non-perishable products like apparel, toys and home decor products can be easily packed up and shipped by air or sea without having to worry too much about the handling of the cargo. While these products may require less care, they also yield a lower profit margin. If apparel shipping is on the far left end of the spectrum of cargo-sensitivity, in terms of ease-of-care, hazardous and dangerous goods shipping are on the far right end. Great lengths must be taken to ensure its safe transport. First, let’s define what hazardous and dangerous goods are, then explore the five steps necessary to ship them safely.

Hazardous or dangerous goods can be defined as materials or items with inherent hazardous properties which if not properly controlled, can present a potential hazard to the health and well-being of all living organisms and the safety of the environment.

Dangerous goods can be solids, liquids or gases. They can be hot or cold, pungent or odorless, transparent or colored and their hazardous effects can be anything from minimal to fatal. They may be pure chemicals, mixtures of substances, manufactured products or individual articles on their own.

With so many classes, sub-classes and divisions, shipping & logistics of the various types of hazardous goods around the world can be quite tricky.

Below are the 5 tips to guide you on dangerous goods shipping.

1.   Know your hazardous goods

If you are a shipper or carrier of hazardous materials, it is crucial for you to know and understand the nature of the goods you are handling, the inherent risks it possesses and the regulations surrounding its transportation.

Even seemingly harmless products like table tennis balls, nail polish, paint, and perfumes are listed as hazardous materials. For shipping paint, for example, hazardous transport regulations are applicable.

The hazardous effects of some these goods may include acidic/caustic burning of skin tissue, the emission of flammable and/or toxic fumes whereas some products can be corrosive to metals and other materials; others can be explosive in nature or when exposed to sources of heat. Certain goods can be harmful to the environment if not contained properly and others can react dangerously to water.

Shipping Batteries

Daily items of use such as lithium batteries need to be handled carefully and the differentiation between lithium metal and lithium-ion batteries need to be understood. Lithium batteries have been the subject of many discussions due to the many incidents that have happened in its transportation.

Shipments & logistics of lithium batteries need to meet following Special Provisions;

  1.     Lithium content / watt-hour rating for cells
  2.     Aggregate lithium content / watt-hour rating for batteries
  3.     Manufacturing and testing
  4.     Package
  5.     When installed in equipment
  6.      Package marking
  7.     Drop test of package
  8.     Gross mass of packages

The shipper of these hazardous materials must be aware of all the facts related to their product and must display these facts using documents, labels, etc.

The transportation of dangerous goods is a highly regulated process as there are human lives and property involved at all stages of transport and in all modes.

Each mode of transport has its own set of regulations and whether you are a shipper or carrier, you need to be aware of what this entails.

There are several restrictions, regulations, processes involved in transporting hazardous materials and these vary greatly from country to country and even from state to state within the same country.

The transportation of hazardous materials by sea is governed and regulated by the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code or IMDG Code, which is the internationally accepted regulation for the safe transportation of dangerous goods and hazardous materials by sea. The IMDG Code is intended to protect the ship’s crew, prevent marine pollution by hazardous materials and ensure safe transportation.

IATA dangerous goods regulation

As far as air freight is concerned, the internationally agreed regulations for transporting dangerous goods are covered by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) International Dangerous Goods Regulations.

The IATA regulations, Dangerous Goods Regulations – DGR, is the trusted source to help you prepare and document dangerous shipments. Recognized by the world’s airlines for almost 60 years, the DGR is the most complete, up-to-date, and user-friendly reference in the industry.

These domestic and international regulations for the transportation of dangerous goods are required to ensure that they work together in a common manner acceptable to and enforceable by all.

3. Follow proper dangerous goods packaging procedures and protocols

While the proper packaging is essential for any cargo to avoid cargo damage, for hazardous cargo, it comes with the additional risk due to the cargo’s hazardous nature.

Precisely for this reason, you must first ensure that you pack your cargo adequately with the appropriate packing materials. Also, ensure the proper cushioning and lashing of the cargo so that it does not move inside the container and cause any leakages or damage.

If hazardous materials and non-dangerous goods are transported in the same container, everything should be tightly packed, braced, and secured for transportation.

There are have been countless incidents in which shippers took shortcuts or cut corners to save cost with regards to packing, but in many cases, it results in additional costs by way of cargo claims, damages or even loss of lives.

4. Make sure the packaging is suitable for the dangerous goods you are packing

If you are packing using used packing materials like cartons or drums, it is critical to ensure that these outer packing materials are free of any other labels from the previous shipment (or have any other unrelated labels.)

Some of the customers take photographs during packing and after packing and lashing to ensure that everything is in good order in case, they are faced with any claims later.

Certain hazardous cargoes may be impacted by moisture, condensation, water ingress into the containers, or heat, and it is important that the container used is air, wind and watertight.

Labeling

Packaging includes proper placarding and labeling of the goods, the inner and outer packaging and the labeling of the shipping container.

All hazardous goods containers packed and being transported using whichever mode, should have the appropriate labels; if it is ready to be transported physically, this should be done only after the hazardous labels has been fixed on the outside of the container.

Use the proper documentation for transporting hazardous materials

Probably the most critical aspect that must be considered in the chain of hazardous materials shipments. The documentation related to the hazardous material shipments.

There are several documents involved in the shipment of hazardous goods like the MSDS, DG Request, DG Packing List/Declaration, DG Manifest, TREM Card and many more depending on the nature of the goods, country of shipment and receipt, mode of transport.

Use the proper documentation for transporting hazardous materials

Probably the most critical aspect that must be considered in the chain of hazardous materials shipments. The documentation related to the hazardous material shipments.

There are several documents involved in the shipment of hazardous goods like the MSDS, DG Request, DG Packing List/Declaration, DG Manifest, TREM Card and many more depending on the nature of the goods, country of shipment and receipt, mode of transport.

5. Train your people. Be aware of the processes of hazardous materials transportation

Another major factor that influences the shipping of hazardous materials is the awareness of all people involved in the chain of shipment.

Everyone in the chain including the cargo handlers, packers, equipment operators, documentary staff, truckers, hazardous goods approvers need to be suitably trained not only in their job-specific tasks but also in the whole chain.

Each employee should be aware of the regulations relating to the cargo, the regulations at the ports, destination country and the processes and documentation involved in the movement.

Conclusion

Shipping & logistics of hazardous materials is not everyone’s cup of tea. Strict regulations need to be followed and a high-level of planning is required. Therefore, it is always better to appoint a Logistics services provider or a hazardous goods specialist who know the process, procedures, packing and packaging requirements and the documentation required for shipping your dangerous goods.

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